NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

The return of Five Fabulous Favorite Fotos

National Dragster photographer Marc Gewertz shares his favorite images
01 Feb 2008
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor

I'm proud to introduce the second in a series of Five Fabulous Favorite Fotos, works of art captured by the drag racing photographers who prowl the sidelines of our sport and capture, for all eternity, the moments that makes memories. It takes a keen eye, a great sense of anticipation, a strong knowledge of the sport, and hair-trigger reflexes.

Again I'm thrilled to showcase the work of one of our own, Senior Staff Photographer Marc Gewertz, who's been around the sport from an early age.

"I’ve been going to the track since I was a kid," says Marc. "My dad bought me a camera when I was 8. I took it to the track and I’ve been shooting cars ever since. I used to build model cars and light them on fire and shoot photos as they rolled a blaze down the driveway. I shot from the grandstands until I was old enough to get a starting line credential. I did some freelance work for various automotive publications before becoming the Assistant Editor of Jr. DRAGSTER in January of 1996. I was asked to join the National DRAGSTER Photo Dept later that year after Leslie Lovett passed away."

"The sun had just gone down prior to the Top Fuel final round at the 1998 Winston Finals in Pomona. As the teams waited in the water box, I noticed a little bit of color left in the sky and thought I could capture a photograph that would symbolize the season coming to an end. I manually exposed for the highlights in the sky, which resulted in silhouetting the dragster and crew in the foreground. The dragster in the photo is 1998 Top Fuel world champion Gary Scelzi."
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"Funny Car driver Dean Skuza was well known for many things, including his legendary 300-foot-long burnouts. This shot was taken from a boom lift approximately 50 feet above the track at the 2000 Winternationals. I had a variety of lenses with me (20-35mm, 35-70mm, and an 80-200mm) that allowed me to shoot several different perspectives from this unique angle. Instead of shooting Skuza coming toward me, I decided to shoot him as he came under me with a wider lens to show the length of the burnout. I like this shot for two reasons: the unique angle and the sharp contrast between the white smoke and the black track."
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"Drag racing is about speed and power, but to this day people are still one of my favorite subjects to photograph at the track. These are the images that capture the emotional side of the sport, win or lose. This shot of Andrew Hines was taken at the 2006 Auto Club Finals as his hopes for a third straight PSM championship were in someone else's hands. Hines had red-lighted in the first round, where a victory would have clinched the championship, but Hines had to wait for the next round to see if Antron Brown could steal it away with a win over Craig Treble.

"As the Pro Stock Motorcycles came to the line I was looking for Andrew because I knew this round would determine the 2006 champion. After a couple of minutes I spotted him sitting on a golf cart in front of the grandstands. I knelt down at the front of the golf cart and focused on Andrew with a wide-angle lens. I didn't even watch the race because I wanted to capture Andrew's emotion when he saw the win light. Hines jumped off the golf cart and leapt into the air before being swarmed by his family and crew. He had just won his third consecutive POWERade championship."

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"We all know that drag racing consists of two cars going down the track in a straight line. When it comes to photographing the sport it can be challenging to come up with something that looks a little bit different, so when the opportunity arises I try to take advantage of it. We were lucky to get this colorful sunset at Norwalk last year, which only lasted a few minutes. I walked back by the water box and began shooting test shots of the next car in line. This allowed me to experiment with different exposures to see what would yield the best results. I had to set my exposure slow enough to get good flames but not so slow that the photo would be blurry."
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"This shot of Vern Moats with all four wheels off the ground was taken in Houston in 2003. It was shot cross-track, which means Moats was in the lane farthest from me, and I was using a 300mm lens. This lens is used by almost every drag racing photographer on the circuit week in and week out. You can plan your shots to the best of your ability, have the right exposure, find a clean background, etc., but you can't account for luck. I've shot from this angle 1,000 times, but this photo is another example of being in the right place at the right time. Thanks, Vern."
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A week ago Tuesday, NHRA Funny Car star Ashley Force and her sisters were guests of the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL for a special night. Ashley, Brittany, and Courtney signed autographs on the concourse and a Force car was on display outside Honda Center.

There's been a solid connection between NHRA and the Ducks the last few years as former NHRA vice president of sales and business development Bob Wagner is now the senior vice president and chief marketing officer with the Ducks organization and Rachel Kaizoji, who previously worked in NHRA Youth & Education Services, is the naming & title rights manager for Honda Center and the Ducks.

Wagner presented Ashley with her own special-edition Ducks jersey, with the 08 on the back for the current year and, while I'm sure they'd be happy to have her on the team, the Ducks probably are smiling even more about having their real #8, Teemu Selanne, part of last year's Stanley Cup-winning team (his jersey can be seen on the wall behind Force and Wagner), back on the roster after flirting with retirement.

A week ago, I showed you the snow on Mount Baldy and bragged that the upcoming rainstorms would coat the mountains behind Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to provide a scenic backdrop for the Winternationals. Would I lie to you?

Assistant Photo Editor Jerry Foss made a stop on Parker Avenue on his way to work yesterday to grab this pic for us. We're expecting a tad bit more rain Sunday but the 10-day forecast shows that Winternationals weekend will be heavenly: sunny with highs in the high 60s and low 70s. You can almost smell the national records.